Tipperary 2-17 Longford 0-6
The challenge for Peter Creedon’s Tipperary footballers on Saturday proved that last month’s Munster semi-final against Cork was more than just a one-off.
At Páirc Uí Chaoimh, they had been ahead in stoppage time before dual star Aidan Walsh performed late heroics to get the Rebels out of jail.
Tipp could have folded the tent, bowed tamely out of the qualifiers and reflected upon a season that has seen them gain promotion from Division 4 of the Allianz League and achieve a first victory in the Munster SFC since 2003.
But Tipp want more and a 17-point win over Longford at Semple Stadium was the county’s best-ever qualifier result.
Longford were riding high on confidence on the back of a stunning victory over Derry at Celtic Park. But for whatever reason, the Midlanders performed dismally.
Longford waved the white flag from a long way out as Tipp coped comfortably with the loss of Michael Quinlivan to a severe back spasm in the 13th minute.
Quinlivan netted as early as the second minute and by half-time, Tipp were 1-8 to 0-4 clear and cruising.
Conor Sweeney helped himself to eight points in total, including five frees, and played a crucial role in the 44th minute goal fisted home by man of the match Peter Acheson.
Sweeney twisted and turned on the endline before delivering a floated centre that was just begging to be fisted home on the edge of the square, with Acheson duly obliging.
The positioning of Acheson was crucial to this win as the Moyle Rovers dynamo made the switch from defence to attack.
Ian Fahey was dropped from the team listed in the programme and in the reshuffle, Acheson moved to centre forward, with John Coghlan slotting in comfortably at the back.
Creedon explained: “Sometimes you have to change your team because everyone else will be looking at what you’re doing. Look, John Coghlan has been playing well all year in training and we wanted John to mark their centre-forward because we knew he was going deep and he did it to perfection. Next week we might come up with something different. It worked today – next week we might make a call and it might not work at all.”
Former Dublin star Sheedy was crestfallen, having earmarked this game as a massive opportunity to make further progress through the backdoor.
He admitted: “We certainly didn’t see that kind of performance coming.
“Everything we tried, we didn’t execute well at all. It’s massively frustrating because we felt we were in a very good position over the last two weeks since the Derry game. We felt that we had a good opportunity here to deliver a performance that would be good enough to beat Tipperary. We weren’t expecting anything easy because we obviously looked at their performance against Cork – it was a fantastic performance and we knew it was going to be very, very difficult.”
Longford had two second half goals disallowed but played second fiddle from start to finish.
At full-time, Tipp were afforded a massive ovation by home fans in the 18,647 attendance as a big crowd gathered during the second-half ahead of the hurling clash with Galway.
Scorers for Tipperary: C Sweeney (0-8, 5fs), P Acheson (1-2), B Grogan (0-4, 3fs), M Quinlivan (1-0), P Codd, B Mulvihill, C Kennedy (0-1 each).
Scorers for Longford: B Kavanagh (0-2fs), E Williams, M Quinn, P Barden, S McCormack (f) (0-1 each).
TIPPERARY: P Fitzgerald; G Mulhair, P Codd, C McDonald; C O’Riordan, R Kiely, J Coghlan; S O’Brien, G Hannigan; P Austin, P Acheson, B Fox; C Sweeney, M Quinlivan, B Grogan.
Subs: B Mulvihill for Quinlivan (13), C Kennedy for Austin (53), S Flynn for Grogan (64), I Fahey for Acheson (66), A Campbell for Mulhair (69).
LONGFORD: D Sheridan; D Brady, B Gilleran, F Battrim; CP Smyth, E Williams, S Mulligan; K Diffley, B O’Farrell; M Quinn, F McGee, P Barden; S McCormack, B Kavanagh, A Rowan.
Subs: S Doyle for McCormack (40), N Mulligan for Diffley (48), M Hughes for Rowan (48), R McEntire for McGee (60), P Brady for Battrim (69), P Gill for Williams (70+2).
Referee: P O’Sullivan (Kerry)
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